The Foundation of Digital Distribution: Converged Media

In this module, we discuss:

  • The importance of a converged media strategy, and how to architect one


  • Paid Media - exposure gained through platforms and channels that require payment (e.g. advertising, influencers, PR)
  • Owned Media - exposure gained through platforms and channels that are in complete control of a person or business (e.g. websites, branded blogs, mobile apps)
  • Earned Media - exposure gained naturally (or organically) through the public and traditional media (e.g. customer-generated content, built-in content engagement mechanisms, reviews, organic SEO)
  • Rented Media - exposure gained through platforms and channels that are not in complete control of a person or business, but do not necessarily require payment to use (e.g. social media)
  • Converged Media - the utilization of paid, earned, owned and rented media, characterized by a consistent storyline, look and feel, whereby all channels work in concert in order to reach people exactly where, how, and when they want, regardless of channel, medium or device

Historically, businesses had the option of utilizing paid, owned and earned media against the backdrop of a customer journey that was relatively simple and streamlined.

With the advent of the Internet and most recently social media, the customer journey has become exponentially dynamic and heavily fragmented, thanks to significantly more devices, content, channels and platforms.

"With the customer journey between devices, channels, and media becoming increasingly complex, and new forms of technology only making it more so," writes Michael Brito, former Senior Vice President of Social Strategy at Edelman Digital, "the strategy of [converged media] makes [businesses] impervious to the disruption caused by emerging technologies."

Additionally, the onslaught of mobile media consumption — which consisted of nearly three hours a day in 2015 — only intensifies the call for media convergence.

"Rapid journeys across multiple digital devices will increasingly blur the lines until almost all distinction between paid, owned, earned [and rented media] dissolve," Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang write in this report from Altimeter Group, which is responsible for the term converged media.

In other words, converged media is the new digital norm.

As such, if an identity feed that consistently and continuously engages "1,000 True Fans" through a wide array of lifestyle content experiences is the heart of The Business of Media, then its vessels are converged media.

Criteria for Success with Converged Media

In the aforementioned report, Lieb and Owyang outline 11 requirements that practitioners must meet in order to have success with converged media. Among them are:

  1. Successfully architecting strategies around paid, owned, earned and rented media is analogous to designing a chair: Two or three legs may hold it up, but stability and balance is achieved when the design incorporates all four legs.
  2. Different people and/or departments that manage different aspects of paid, owned, earned and rented media must meet at the same table to plan initiatives, content, design, strategies, and use of platforms and channels that link them. Furthermore, even though different people and/or departments might oversee the day-to-day of one or a few of the four legs, full visibility is essential for all parties involved.
  3. While earned and rented media demand an exceedingly high degree of agility, the same level of responsiveness is ideal for owned and paid media as well.
  4. Varying channels and platforms may lead convergence initiatives, but no one channel or platform will retain prominence indefinitely. Channel and platform balance can shift rapidly and without warning, so businesses must monitor and nurture every channel and platform, as well as account for multiple channels and platforms in the planning stages.
  5. Key performance indicators (KPIs) must be defined at the outset, and a system of measurement designed to determine if goals are being achieved.

All in all, converged media — as the report says — helps businesses "increase marketing effectiveness, cut through the clutter, and drive awareness to conversion across the myriad of channels that have become essential to the dynamic journeys customers take place across digital channels, digital screens, and, as all media becomes digital, both offline and offline media consumption."

Lieb and Jeremiah also warn that businesses which do not prepare for digital media convergence will be "at a marked disadvantage" for two reasons:

  1. As traditional forms of media (broadcast, books, periodicals) become more digital, media convergence will be pervasive, and
  2. As the Internet of Things becomes a reality, media will be embedded into and around common products, appliances and tools, all of which will contain consumer data. Initially, this data will be paid and owned, but very quickly earned components will develop and blend to form four-legged convergence.

"Preparing for [convergence] is therefore not just a demand of present reality," the report concludes, "but an inevitable necessity of the future of marketing, advertising, and communications."

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